I am known for my salads. I can make hundreds of variations on the green salad and watch it disappear fast. This is probably true because salad just might be my favorite food. I was raised with a salad at every dinner growing up and we often ate it at the end of the meal, almost like a treat.
When I’m thinking about creating a salad, I like to follow the seasons and highlight what is fresh like this fresh corn and summer blackberry salad.
As luck would have it, I had access to the freshest picked corn from my friend’s produce stand. Burns Produce, located on Patton Road in Arrington right down from Arrington Vineyards is selling Luke Bryan’s corn. How fun is that.
As I was making this salad to take to a dinner, I knew this fresh corn had to be a part of it. I immediately thought that blackberries would be a great accompaniment along with a tangy cheese and a crisp vinaigrette.
I hit it right, as this salad disappeared fast with a fight over that last bite.
Salad is a funny thing. Sometimes people don’t think they like salad because the balance is off. I have never seen anyone not love my salads because of my keen understanding of salt, fat and acid.
Acids on a salad include vinegars and citrus such as lemon and lime juice.
When adding mustard or honey, mix it first with the acid. Then add oil
Feel free to mix your vinegars. I do this all the timeYou can also add lemon to a vinaigrette.
Skip the cheap “so-called” balsamic. A $3.99 bottle of balsamic is not authentic and you’re better off using an inexpensive but good red wine vinegar.
The main fat in a salad is the oil in the vinaigrette.
I also mix my oils. Sometimes I use half extra virgin olive oil and half avocado oil.
While you don’t want to overdo salt in a salad, it’s very important. Sometimes the salt is in the cheese, such as a briny feta or a Pecorino, so adjust accordingly. It could also be in the nuts or an addition of bacon.
Here are my tips for Making a Great Salad
- Make sure lettuce is completely dry before you add a dressing or vinaigrette. Use a salad spinner if needed.
- Pre-mix your oil and vinegar. Using either dijon mustard or honey will help keep emulsify these two ingredients. I usually use mustard.
- Add salt and pepper to the vinaigrette and dip a piece of lettuce in. It should have a bit of a bite.
- Don’t serve salad with dressing on the side. It must be tossed to taste balanced.
- Go easy with vinaigrette when using gentle lettuces like butter lettuces.
- Leaf lettuces do not need a lot of vinaigrette, while lettuces with a lot of of water content like romaine seem to need a lot more and also do well with creamy dressings.
- Assemble salad in advance, but put vinaigrette on right before serving. (Kale is the exception).
- Season again with salt and pepper.
Fresh Corn in a Salad
I did an instagram poll, asking people if they would eat fresh corn in a salad. To my surprise, 25% said no, yet anytime I’ve served it, everyone eats it. If the corn is super fresh, you can just cut it off the cob and put it into the salad. If that concerns you, you can cut the corn into a bowl and microwave it for a few minutes.
Best Cheese Additions
The cheese you choose depends on the salad you’re making.
When I want a briny profile, I add olives and feta cheese like this Greek salad with salmon. For some reason, these are best with a romaine lettuce that has heft.
Slivers of Pecorino work well in arugula with a light olive oil and lemon for the acid. Pecorino and romano are also necessary in kale salads like this.
I used ricotta salata (a sheep’s cheese) in this blackberry corn salad to add tang and salt against the sweet of the corn and berries. Feta or goat cheese would have worked well too.
Crumbled blue cheese in a vinaigrette is fantastic especially with steak dinner.
Crumbled blue cheese also loves certain fruits in a salad, like pears, apples and peaches.
Herbs, Veggies, Nuts
Fresh herbs can be nice addition. I used a small amount of rosemary in this winter salad. Make sure the herbs fit the salad. Basil, parsley, thyme, oregano, mint can add that little bit of extra. For example, fresh oregano in a greek salad is divine. Fresh basil in a tomato salad is amazing.
Tomatoes – Only add tomatoes if they are superb and properly ripened, cut into bite sized pieces. A well-balanced salad should only need to be eaten with a fork, not a knife and fork. Don’t put tomatoes in until the last minute and never cold.
Cucumbers – Cut off the skins and make them bite sized.
Mushrooms – I am not a fan of raw mushrooms in a salad, but if you are, add them right before serving.
Nuts – I love adding nuts to a salad for added texture, but make sure the nuts makes sense. There are no nuts in this corn blackberry salad because they would clash with the textures. However, in my peach salad, toasted almonds make perfect sense.
More Notes on What Not to do to Make an Easy Vinaigrette
I have a few strong opinions on vinaigrettes.
Keep your vinaigrette simple. It’s a balance of fat, acid, and salt as stated above.
Don’t add in spices such as garlic powder, garlic salt, onion salt. While you think that might sound good, these can be off-putting. The secret to a good vinaigrette is less is best; balance is key.
Don’t add garlic (unless it’s for a kale salad) and only do that gingerly. Garlic is a turnoff in a vinaigrette.
Don’t add onions to a vinaigrette or to a salad. Raw onions take over and contaminate your ingredients. You may not agree with me on this, but if you want your guests to love your salad, trust me. I admit I have an aversion to raw onion, but one of your guests is bound to feel the same. Leave the onion out. Leave celery out for the same reason. There are people who have just as strong of an aversion to celery as well.
Nuts such as toasted sliced almonds, pecans, walnuts and pistachios can certainly make many salads better.
Most Popular corn recipe
More Summer Salads from Spinach Tiger
Blackberry Corn Salad with Simple Vinaigrette
- 2 bags butter leaf lettuce
- 2 ears fresh corn
- 1 pint blackberries
- 3 ounces ricotta salata cheese can use feta
- 1/2 teaspoon salt taste and season
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper taste and season
- 2 teaspoon dijon mustard can replace with honey
- 6 tablespoons vinegar champagne or red wine
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- dash teaspoon sea salt
- dash teaspoon black pepper
- You may have extra dressing. Keep in jar outside of fridge for future salads. Only apply what you need.
- Mix mustard with vinegar in jar. Add oil and shake until well incorporated.
- Season with dash of salt and pepper.
- Cut corn off cob. You can add to salad or microwave in bowl for 3 minutes.
- Allow corn to cool.
- Add lettuce, corn, blackberries and crumbled ricotta salata to large salad bowl.
- Toss with just enough vinaigrette to wet all leaves. Taste and add more vinegar as needed.
- Season with salt and pepper.
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